If you run a restaurant, you know that it involves a lot of hard work, late nights, and elbow grease. And if you are looking to start your own place, hopefully, you know that this is what you should expect.
But it takes more than that to turn your restaurant from surviving to thriving. These seven tips were compiled from the stories of successful restaurants. Keep reading to find out how they can help you and your restaurant.
1. Define Your Niche
The best restaurants in the world are thoroughly aware of the niche that they occupy within the bigger market. A niche consists of the specific services you offer. By establishing and defining your restaurant’s niche, you build a reputation for your specialty.
By defining your niche, you also narrow down your competition. The broader your services, the more competition you are faced with. If you establish yourself as a leader in a specialty, you set your restaurant apart from the pack.
2. Focus on Hospitality
Hospitality is one of the most important aspects of the restaurant experience. In fact, many restaurateurs consider it more important than the actual quality of their food. They figure that people will return for good service and mediocre food, but not for bad service and great food.
Danny Meyer is the founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG). USHG is comprised of a handful of New York fine dining restaurants, as well as one burger chain called Shake Shack. Meyer built USHG from scratch and has become known as a leader in the restaurant world.
In his book, “Setting the Table,” Meyer talks about the importance of hospitality. And so much of hospitality begins with your front of house (FOH) staff. FOH staff are the first people your customers see when they enter your restaurant, and the last people they interact with when they leave.
FOH staff include
…and more. They become the outward face of your restaurant. Therefore, FOH staff need to be trained to be helpful, knowledgeable, and above all, kind.
It is not uncommon to find FOH staff who are impatient, rude, or simply going through the motions. But many FOH employees are stellar professionals who give a good name to your restaurant. Your job as a restaurant owner is to hire responsibly.
Of course, sometimes customers will have issues with your service, no matter how perfect it is. But successful restaurateurs like Danny Meyer recommend always listening to and incorporating feedback from your customers. Even if you don’t agree with it.
3. Listen to and Incorporate Feedback
This brings us to the next point: listening to your customer’s feedback. There’s no doubt about it, it is really disappointing when you receive negative feedback from a customer. But there are ways to use negative feedback to improve your restaurant success rate.
There are two main categories that negative feedback from customers will fall into. The criticism you think is legitimate, and criticism that you think is not legitimate. Let’s talk about legitimate critiques first.
Though we don’t like to admit it, sometimes things go wrong. An order is dropped, a steak is overcooked, or a drink is spilled. Here are ways you can make it up to your customer:
- Pay for their meal
- Invite them to come back at a discount
- Bring a complementary dish to their table
- Replace their meal
- Apologize genuinely
The last point is without a doubt the most important. Even if you end up comping their entire meal, make sure you couple this gesture with a legitimate apology. In this case, words speak louder than actions–as long as they are genuine.
Next, let’s look at critiques that don’t seem legitimate. In most cases, you should handle the customer in the same way as when the complaints seem legitimate. That’s the key to good customer service: treating every customer as though their feedback is valued.
But this feedback doesn’t serve you unless you learn from it. Really listen to customer feedback and incorporate it into your daily operations.
For example, if one waiter keeps dropping orders, you should move them to a less busy shift. If eggs keep getting sent back to the kitchen, you need to have a conversation with your grill cook. Let feedback make your team stronger.
4. Plan Your Layout Carefully
The most successful restaurants attribute a lot of their achievements to a good restaurant layout. The way in which you map out your seating chart, cash registers, and even bus bins can drastically impact the guest experience.
The golden rule of restaurant layout is that a customer should never be confused about where to go next. Their flow of movement should be apparent simply by the way things are laid out.
Take the example of a small cafe that serves coffee and light food items. When the customer walks in the door, there should be a clear line to the place where they will be able to order. After the order, it should be obvious whether they need to wait for their own drink, or if their order will be brought to them once they sit down.
Any ambiguity on the flow of the restaurant will cause your customers to feel confused and alienated. The navigability of a restaurant is very important to both new and returning customers.
While planning your layout, consider also the seating choices that you want available to customers. Are hardback chairs appropriate for your restaurant? Or should customers be able to sit and relax on an upholstered sofa?
Seating choices not only add to the aesthetic of your restaurant, but to the comfort of your customers. When in doubt, consult the experts. For example, Richardson Seating offers a wide variety of seating options designed explicitly for restaurants.
5. Hire Responsibly
Remember earlier when we mentioned that it is your responsibility to hire the right way? Hiring processes and choices impact your restaurant’s success in numerous ways.
The restaurant industry is known for tremendous levels of turnover. This is in part due to the fact that restaurant managers do not hire carefully the first time around.
A good staff can increase your efficiency and is almost completely responsible for customer satisfaction. But if you hire the wrong employees, you’ll be faced with poor customer service and an unproductive work ethic. This can grind your operation to a halt.
Restaurateurs have also found that high turnover costs them a lot of money. Training new employees takes valuable time and resources and is ultimately an investment. By hiring right the first time, you will find that you have higher retention amongst your employees.
Here is a list of things that restaurateurs recommend doing while hiring in order to attract the best possible FOH and back of house employees:
- Write an ad that lays out expectations clearly
- Offer a competitive wage
- Every interview should last at least half an hour
- Each applicant should be interviewed twice
- Each applicant should be interviewed by more than one person
- Your hiring team should clearly define what they are looking for and what are dealbreakers
- Never hire out of desperation
This last point hits home for a lot of restaurateurs. In the restaurant industry, sometimes something happens and there is a hole to fill in the schedule. Managers want to fill that hole with an employee, so they hire the first person who applies just to make ends meet.
Remember, this will cost you more in the long run, and it will give you employees who are ultimately a bad fit for your business.
6. Streamline Your Operations
This point is sometimes confusing for small businesses or restaurants that want to be unique. Restaurateurs at these locations associate streamlining operations will large corporations. They want to stand out as individual establishments.
But don’t worry, streamlining your operations is an organizational tool, nothing more. You can still “define your niche” like in step one. But this advice will help your restaurant be efficient in both money management and employee organization.
Streamlining your operations is just a fancy term for doing something the same way every time. By creating a preferred process, you deliver consistency to your customer and let them know what to expect. But it also creates less room for error.
What should you have a preferred practice for? You should definitely have a consistent way that the till is counted. If your cash is counted every night in the same way by the same person, they can detect errors early.
All of your bartenders, baristas, or cooks, should have a streamlined method for preparing their bar or making recipes. If different cooks make the same menu item differently, customers won’t be able to depend on the quality of your food.
Think of the other things that streamlining your processes can do for you. Things will never be misplaced or lost because they will always be kept in the same place. When a customer has a question, your whole staff knows the answer.
The special bonus that comes with streamlining your operations is that it takes the onus of training off of you. If you take the time to carefully train your whole staff about how things are done, they will all become experts in their own time. When you hire another person, your staff will be able to train them for you.
7. Create an Online Presence
Twenty years ago, this would not have been on a list of things that restaurateurs need to do to make their businesses successful. However, times have changed and we have entered the digital world.
And that means that you need to curate some kind of online presence. At the very least, a website and Google listing with accurate hours, address, and parking information is a must.
But many businesses are choosing to embrace social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram. What’s the point of being on social media as a restaurateur?
First of all, you can grow and promote your brand. Taking appealing pictures of food or drinks on your menu will show people scrolling by what you have to offer. It’s also a great way to promote specials or deals you may be having.
The digital age has brought with it a completely new job: the Instagram Influencer. Instagram Influencers will come to your restaurant, snap some photos, and share the experience with their hundreds or thousands of followers. It is a quick and easy way to gain new customers.
But you will miss out on this attention if the influencers cannot tag you in their posts. You may have someone in-house who can help with digital marketing. If not, consider hiring an outside consultant.
Additionally, the pandemic has completely changed the rules for restaurants this year. So many people are checking websites and social media before they try and visit your restaurants. They want to know if you are open, and how they can dine with you.
So don’t make that information hard to find. Post it regularly, and update your pages with any last-minute changes to your service.
Grow Your Business with Sage Advice from Successful Restaurants and Restaurateurs
Growing a restaurant is hard work, especially during a pandemic. But the same wise rules of business still apply. By following these seven tips compiled from successful restaurants and restaurateurs, your business can follow suit.
What else do you need to know to start or maintain a restaurant or business this year? Keep reading in our Business section.